Tell Me What You Would Have Done Differently at Work

Businessmen in job interview
••• Image Source / Getty Images

When interviewers ask you questions about things you would have done differently at work, they want to gain insight into your job-related weaknesses. They may also be attempting to determine how you respond to failure, and whether you can identify and address your shortcomings proactively.  

How to Prepare an Answer

The best approach is to reflect on your past work experiences and make a list of situations which didn't turn out the way you would have liked. Think about the actions you took (or didn’t take), and how they influenced the less than ideal outcome. Identify similar scenarios which you encountered again after those initial disappointments, but where you performed differently. What did you learn from the negative result, and what did you do to strengthen your ability to handle similar situations in the future?

Best Answers

Be prepared to mention any steps you took to upgrade your skills, increase your knowledge base or modify counterproductive behaviors. Turn your weakness into a learning opportunity, and share the ways you gained new skills for problem solving. Maybe you have taken a workshop or sought out advice from a mentor. The reason you would have done it differently now is that you learned how to handle a difficult situation to get a positive outcome.

For example, you might have had an early experience as a manager when you allowed an individual with a negative personality to interfere with the group dynamics of your team. If in a subsequent management experience you took an assertive approach by coaching a similar employee to change his behavior (or leave the unit), then you might reference the initial incident as something you would have done differently. You can give examples of how the first experience showed you the consequences of allowing the employee’s behavior to erode the team morale, and inspired you to expand your skills so you were able to put a stop to the issue before it became a problem the next time.

Given your subsequent experience, you can say that you did handle it differently later on, and alleviate any concern the employer might have about your toughness or assertiveness as a manager. If you consulted Human Resources, attended a workshop on handling difficult employees or employed another strategy to address the weakness, then you should surely mention the specific steps you took to enable your improved response.  

Be Careful 

Naturally, you should avoid referencing any scenarios revealing weaknesses which would interfere with you carrying out key elements of the job, unless you can offer clear substantiated facts that those weaknesses are no longer an issue.

Interviewers ask about weaknesses for a variety of reasons. They want to know how self aware you are, and whether you have the ability to be critical of your own performance. Everyone has weaknesses, and employers want to know that you know yours, and that you take active steps to learn from them and avoid allowing them to create problems at work.

You don’t want to give the interviewer an opportunity not to hire you because she’s concerned about your ability to do the job. Here are more tips for responding to interview questions about weaknesses.

Be Honest

As with all interview responses, be sure to select issues which you can discuss honestly and sincerely, since interviewers will usually notice fabrications. Stretching the truth during an interview can make it difficult to keep your story consistent, and depending on the extent and depth of your lies, can cause a job offer to be withdrawn. You can even be fired for lying during the application process after you have been hired.

Be Prepared

Spending some extra time preparing for your interview is well worth it. You worked hard just to score the interview, and you deserve the best shot possible at a job offer. The more you know about a company going into the interview, the better prepared you can be to answer tough questions about your qualifications.

Making the effort to familiarize yourself with the company’s practices and corporate culture can help you anticipate what kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked, and how to frame your responses in a way that will be received positively. Finally, make sure you dress appropriately, and be polite to absolutely everyone you meet.